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Recent Release Reviews: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release dates: October 28, 2008 (PC), November 11, 2008 (Xbox 360)
Genre: Real-time strategy (RTS)
What is Red Alert and why was (and is) it so popular?
Red Alert is a spin-off of the Command& Conquer franchise, and puts the player in a different universe to C&C and its GDI and NOD factions. In fact, Red Alert is meant to be a prequel to Command& Conquer. The Brotherhood of Nod was mentioned in the first game, and they supposedly used the Soviets for their own purposes.
The GDI rose from what used to be known as Special Operations Group Echo: Black Ops 9.
Red Alert takes place in a world where WW 2 didn’t happen, and the USSR rose to be a world superpower, and decided to war against the Allies. Throughout the series, you could play as both the Allies and the Soviets.
Facing defeat at the hands of the Allies, Colonel Cherdenko (Tim Curry), General Krukov and Dr. Zelinsky travel back to the past, to Brussels in the year 1924 at the International Physics Conference and eliminate Albert Einstein. This prevents him from creating the technology that allowed the Allies to defeat the Soviet Union in the previous games.
When they get back to the present, Cherdenko discovers that he is no longer a Colonel, but the Premier of the Soviet Union.
They also realize that they have shot themselves in the foot, because in addition to the lack of Allied technology, they no longer have their nuclear arsenal due to Einstein having not developed the technology. The Empire of the Rising Sun also seems to have come to the fore and challenged the Soviets and the Allies.
• Three factions to play, including the old favourites, the Allies and the Soviets, and a new one, the Empire of the Rising sun (Japan).
• New version of the SAGE engine, the RNA engine.
• Enhanced naval gameplay.
• New Co-Commander for the campaigns.
• Ability to play solo or in co-op mode.
• Well known actors, like J.K. Simmons, Tim Curry, Jenny McCarthy, Gemma Atkinson, George Takei, Kelly Hu and Peter Stormare. Even David Hasselhoff makes a small guest appearance!
If WW 2 had indeed not happened, the Soviets would have been spared the loss of over twelve million lives. In Japan’s case, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have been nuked by the atomic bombs dropped by the Americans.
The same overall strategy applies in Red Alert 3, but with a few changes.
Ore collecting is different this time around; minerals are no longer strewn across the battlefield, but are contained in ore mines that are sometimes few and far between, but they mostly contain thousands of units of ore, and can eventually run dry. There are still oil derricks present to generate small amounts of supplementary income.
As far as combat goes, naval combat is now emphasized in addition to land and air tactics, which means that there are more ways to reach the enemy’s bases, and the player can no longer feel safe when it comes to water. Many of the units are amphibious as well, and can travel on both land and sea, and some even on land and air.
This makes it harder to concentrate on just one entrance to your bases when they can be attacked from multiple positions.
Speaking of units, there are plenty of new units to play with, and most of them have more than one function, that is usually attained by pressing the special function key or perhaps contextual functions that are activated by putting your cursor over a particular building or feature. Old units also make a return, some with enhanced abilities to keep things fresh and interesting. Units can also achieve higher ranks which make them more dangerous, usually enhancing their firepower and regenerating their health.
Some campaign missions are all about the usual base building, while others are down to espionage and stealth tactics on a limited budget and against overwhelming enemy forces.
Similar to C&C Generals, there are support powers that can be selected to make things easier, in addition to the old super weapons that can be constructed. Both of these things need to recharge after use so as not to give one player an edge over the other.
Before and after missions, there are the usual cutscenes with some gorgeous actresses that have become a mainstay in the Red Alert series, as well as some real-time animations during the missions as well the irritating little videos that plaque the mini-map at the top right, where the arrogant enemy commanders taunt you almost constantly.
The game uses the RNA engine, and despite its good looks, it is based on a far more ancient technology.
The first incarnation was called W3D, and it was used in Emperor: Battle for Dune and Command & Conquer: Renegade.
The second and better known version was SAGE, used in Command & Conquer: Generals, Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath.
That makes RNA the third, and Red Alert 3 is the first game to use it.
Graphically, compared to its predecessor, Red Alert 2, it certainly does look better though; Red Alert 2 used an advanced Tiberian Sun engine. This third game in the series is fully 3D instead of the old isometric view that was common in RTS games for quite a while, up until about the new millennium.
The infantry unit detail isn’t particularly good, while the vehicles and structures aren’t bad. I especially like the effects, such as when the support powers are activated, or explosions take place. The water is also quite good, as it shimmers and you can tell the difference between shallow and deeper bodies of water. You can even see the wrecks of buildings and units once they’ve sunk to the bottom after being destroyed.
The music in Red Alert 3 was composed by James Hannigan, Timothy Michael Wynn and Frank Klepacki. Klepacki is a mainstay in the Command& Conquer games, and joined Westwood when he was only seventeen. He has also worked on other titles like the Dune series.
The music is RA 3 is no doubt good, but in my opinion, there aren’t that many tracks. When The gameplay is slow and the player is just building up his base, the music is slow and atmospheric too, along with the familiar instruments used in various locations of the world, like Greece and Japan. It really makes you feel as if you are there.
When the action sets in, the same old repetitive track plays.
The briefing menus feature the new version of the Red Alert series track, Hell March. This version sounds better than the previous two.
What's the score?
+ Good graphics, especially the ‘special effects’.
+ New abilities, units, and gameplay changes.
+ Enhanced and emphasized usage of naval warfare.
- AI and path finding a bit stupid at times.
- Unforgiving, even in ‘easy’ mode.
- No nukes!
- A great new addition to the Command& Conquer and Red Alert series.
Playing Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 feels like:
Command& Conquer: Generals (2003)
Command& Conquer: Tiberium Wars (2007)
There are the usual combat sounds, as well as the grating voice of the mission aids who try to tell you how to do your job.
Units still have the same old unvaried responses when clicked or when churned out of their structure such as the barracks which may force you to turn down the volume on the unit tab in the audio options menu as it can get a bit aggravating.
The battlefield is never entirely quiet, as you can hear the waves, the wind, and the sound as your credits climb up higher and higher, as well as base-building noises, vehicles and ambient sounds like livestock in the civilian areas.
You will mostly rely on your mouse to traverse the map, but there are certain keyboard shortcuts that will be worth memorizing, especially if your mouse is occupied elsewhere and you have to manage more than one situation.
What I think of it
I tried to look at this game strictly in the Red Alert sub-series and not the whole C&C series. Compared to Red Alert 2, it is leaps and bounds ahead. It even has improvements over what was seen in C&C: Tiberium Wars, but that is not a Red Alert game.
Any fan of the game should definitely give it a try.
What do you think of RA3?
© 2008 ANDR01D